SCHENECTADY -- Poring through the archives of the Schenectady Museum, Effner History Research Library and City Hall is nothing new for city and Schenectady County historian Don Rittner. But trying to find nearly 100 pictures of the city's past to compare with its present was a challenge.
Rittner, who has spent nearly 35 years researching Schenectady's history, recently published his seventh book with Arcadia Publishing, titled "Schenectady (Then & Now)." The book includes 85 images from the city's past juxtaposed with contemporary pictures taken by Rittner, with short blurbs describing the historical significance of each.
"It's a walking field guide to Schenectady's main arteries," Rittner said. "The city is one of the oldest in the country, and this book details just some of the changes that have occurred in the last century."
It took Rittner about six months to put the material together, focusing on the two major 19th-century corridors within the city -- King's Highway, or modern-day State Street, and the Erie Canal, today Erie Boulevard.
State Street, which runs east to west, was originally part of an Indian trail that was widened into a wagon road around 1663, connecting Schenectady on the Mohawk River and Albany on the Hudson River, Rittner said.
The Erie Canal cut through the city in 1825, running north to south. Many of the city's industrial establishments were along the canal until 1915, when the Barge Canal system was established, Rittner said.
The book also pays tribute to the Electric City's notable scientists, including Charles Steinmetz, Ernst Alexanderson, William Coolidge, Irving Langmuir and Vincent Schaefer.
Arcadia's "Then & Now" series places historical images of many cities across the country side by side with modern photographs so readers can compare the past and present.
Rittner is working on a similar book for the city of Troy, which is scheduled for release sometime this fall.
"These books are an inexpensive and unique introduction to the history of an area people may be unfamiliar with," Rittner said. "It's a way to document what history we've lost and preserve what we have for the future."
"Schenectady (Then & Now)" is $19.99 and available at area bookstores, independent retailers, online, or through Arcadia Publishing. For information, call (888) 313-2665 or go to www.arcadiapublishing.com.